We all know it’s wrong, even as we’re doing it. The silent looks, knowing nods of agreement, quiet snickers and eye-rolls. The exclusion of someone who isn’t necessarily like us, isn’t up to snuff in our estimation, or just does or says things that annoy us… when we silently devalue another and lead others in doing the same.
I was listening to a well-known Bible teacher last night, and she said something that really got to me. She said that if you are someone who is easily annoyed by others, then it is you who have the character problem, not them; because you have bought into the conviction that you are somehow better and cooler than those people.
Wow… it’s a very humbling thought to realize your pride has taken you to a place where you cannot be patient and loving and kind to others, affirming their absolute worth and value, the way God has with you. He has dealt with me before about this, and I was thankful last night for the reminder – not because this is my current struggle (my struggles right now are far different) – but because it is a constant battle, I think, for many of us, and we need to stay on top of it.
Face it – most of us have at least one person who gets on our nerves. Or bothers us. Someone we avoid if at all possible, just because their personality or their mannerisms “bug” us. It’s just life. People rub other people the wrong way. God calls it “iron sharpening iron.” We call it, “a thorn in our side.” Whatever you want to call it, God has very clear directions for how we are supposed to respond to those people in our lives.
I have always been heart-broken over those moments when I am standing with a group of women, and maybe someone in particular walks up that is not an “accepted” part of the group. Everyone gets quiet and tolerates them for a few minutes, nods politely, laughs all fake-like and pretends to be friendly. Or worse, they don’t even pretend – they just get quiet and stand there in an uncomfortable silence until the person leaves. Then, as soon as the person walks away, some of the members of the group roll their eyes, sigh, everyone silently agrees, and the original conversation resumes. And I wish there was something I could say, or do, and I wasn’t brave enough. The desire for approval from the crowd was stronger than my desire for approval from God… it is so painful to admit.
Those moments haunt me. They make my heart and my chest ache with a heaviness that is hardly bearable… Because I have been on both sides. And trust me, neither side is a good place to find yourself. On one side, there is a mortal wound that takes a very long time to heal – that slaughters your dignity and causes you to limp along feeling relatively worthless and like you haven’t a friend in the world.
And on the other side – oh, this is the worst… you come face to face with their God Who looks directly at you and says, “How could you be so unkind to my child when I have been so kind to you? Where were you when she was formed by My loving hands in her mother’s womb? Are you telling Me that, somehow, when I created her the way she is, I made a mistake? That, because she is not like you, she is flawed? Really? Do you really think that my design for you was better than my design for her? Look at what you have done to my daughter. And why?? Why would you do that?” Oh, it hurts. Trust me.
The sin of pride. It is by far the most dangerous. It is cruel, and ugly, and rears its head up like a serpent, ready to strike out at the most vulnerable among us. It is listed as one of the sins God despises. All other sins Jesus dealt with gently, telling the sinner that they were forgiven and to go and sin no more. But the sin of pride – it was the only one Jesus dealt with harshly, calling the sinners a “brood of vipers,” and “white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones,” and pronouncing doom and judgment on them. Scary stuff, coming from the mouth of God Himself.
Let’s be careful. Please. Be an instrument of welcome and acceptance and healing, not a weapon of injury and destruction. Be the voice and hands of God, and let all you say and do to others bring healing, affirmation, and forgiveness, rather than wounding, humiliation, and condemnation. Bear with one another in brotherly – and sisterly – love. It is what God has asked us to do. He has forgiven our deepest, darkest, most secret sins. He has treated us as a treasure, precious and loved, when we were completely unworthy. Is it too much for Him to ask that we do the same for the rest of His kids?
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” ~ Philippians 2:3
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. ~Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)
“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”
~ I Peter 5:5